Registered Clinical Counselor, B.S.W, M.Ed
What are the Possibilities?
Boomer sex: What are the possibilities? I have always been very interested in the topic of human sexuality. But once I turned fifty I developed a keen curiosity about the topic of sex and aging. I began to wonder, what happens to our sexuality over time? How do changes in our bodies affect our ability to be sexually expressive? What about older people getting into new relationships? Such questions led me to a deeper study of human sexuality and the aging process. And Iím happy to share that information in this and subsequent articles. So check back often if this is a topic of interest to you!
One important fact Iíve learned is that our sexual development can extend from birth to death. In healthy human development, sexuality is a gradual growth and expansion over time. Unfortunately, in the same way some people donít recognize that sexuality is part of childhood; they also donít recognize the important role it plays as we age. The fact is, we are sexual beings from birth to death!
Popular media tends to communicate to us that sexual expression is for young to middle age adults. Rarely do we see elderly people depicted as sexual. Older men who are sexually active are often depicted as ďdirty old menĒ and the idea of older women being sexual is really a stretch for many people. Thankfully, recent commercials for products that enhance erection have been a breakthrough in depicting older adults as sexual beings. Here are a few common myths dispelled about sex and aging.
All extensive research on sex and older people refutes this myth. Studies, as far back as The Starr-Weiner Report on Sex and Sexuality in the Mature Years (1981)[i] and E. Brecher's Love, Sex, and Aging (1984)[ii] have provided relevant information about sexual behavior and attitudes in the over-sixty age group. These and subsequent research studies showed that older adults clearly have lots of interest in continuing their sexual expression and most have the ability to do so. Good health is the key!
The sexuality of older people, like the sexuality of adolescents, frightens many adults in between. Older people have as much right to express their sexuality as anyone else. But this bias against sex and the elderly is evident in many places, especially in nursing homes where couples are often separated without considering their need for continued intimacy. Also, older individuals are often denied the privacy to self-pleasure if they are still sexually active. In fact, their sexuality is rarely discussed, giving them the false idea that perhaps it should be non-existent.
The idea of a sexy grandma is certainly not a culturally held vision. Yet, according to Brecherís Love, Sex, and Aging, the majority of women continue to have sex when they have an available partner and also pleasure themselves well into their senior years. I have seen several cases of widowed women, who after a lifetime of low sexual interest have had intense sexual awakenings in their seventies when starting new relationships. This is evidence that itís never too late to develop sexually.
A National Council on Aging Survey reported that of those people having sex after 60, 72% considered their sex lives to be more satisfying then when they were 40.The truth is that our sexual development will continue to expand as long as we are willing to work (or play) at it. As we age, changes in our bodies may cause us to make one of two choices: give up on sex (not recommended), or redefine it.
When you think about it, we do this redefining all the way through our lives. How we perceive sex at thirty is a very different from how we perceived it at sixteen. And thatís a good thing! The alternative to giving up on our sexual development as we age is to continue to allow it to thrive by redefining sexuality to suit our aging bodies, as well as our spiritual and emotional maturity. After all, there are some very positive aspects to sex in later life and these will be discussed in my next article.
[i] The Starr-Weiner Report on Sex and Sexuality in the Mature Years McGraw-Hill, New York (1981)
[ii] Brecher, E. M. Love, Sex and Aging. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984
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